PM Rutte had to resign, won the elections and has been fixing a new government (for a while).
- Cabinet led by PM Rutte resigned in January following childcare benefit scandal.
- PM Rutte’s VVD (Conservative Liberals) won the general elections in March.
- Coalition government still not formed – VVD, D66 (Liberal Democrats) & CDA (Christian Democrats) most likely coalition partners.
Resignation in January: Cabinet Rutte resigns following childcare benefit scandal
- The childcare benefit scandal is a political affair in which approximately 26,000 parents became unjustly victim of suspected fraud with the childcare allowance and/or became victims of a hard fraud approach by the Tax Administration. Many families were pursued for fraud before the courts, ordered to repay benefits and denied the right for appeal from 2012 on. When PM Rutte offered the resignation of his cabinet to the King following this crisis in January, his cabinet became a so-called caretaker cabinet.
Elections in March: a win for the right
- Leading up to the general elections, the polls already predicted a shift to the right. Mark Rutte’s popularity, strengthened by his role as ‘crisis manager’ of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even though he is heading a care-taker Cabinet, resulted in the expected win for his VVD (+1 seat, 34 total). The second largest party in parliament is now D66 led by Sigrid Kaag, who performed remarkably well during the election campaign and secured an additional 5 seats, putting them at 24 total, followed by the right-wing Freedom Party of Geert Wilders (-3 seats, 17 total).
- With Angela Merkel on her way out, PM Rutte he is now officially the EU’s longest-serving leader. Many believe he has done much for the positioning of the Netherlands in the EU. Vacating the space left by the UK, Rutte has managed to expand Dutch influence on EU budgets and fiscal issues. In addition, he has increasingly been found at odds with the French and the German, for example on the common borrowing scheme for COVID-recovery.
March onwards: a messy formation process
- Following the elections, the formation was off to a rocky start. On March 25, Rutte and Kaag were due to hold a meeting with the formation envoys separately. One of the envoys however quickly learned that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to go into quarantine. On her way out, her notes about the formation were photographed by the press. The notes referred to MP Pieter Omtzigt (CDA), whose efforts in the Dutch childcare benefits scandal contributed to the resignation of the previous cabinet – and implied he should be positioned elsewhere. An hour and a half after the notes were leaked, the envoys resigned, after which new envoy Herman Tjeenk Willink (PvdA) was asked to lead the process.
- Over the summer, Mariëtte Hamer (PvdA) took over and presented her final report on the formation process last Thursday (September 2). Her conclusion was that a minority government is the most likely outcome. The coalition would have to seek cooperation in the House of Representatives, particularly with PvdA (Social Democrats), the GroenLinks (Greens) and Christian Union (Christian conservatives). Although VVD, CDA, and D66 prefer a majority government, they seem to be open to negotiations, to form a minority government with these three parties.
- What is clear is that the upcoming coalition government is not up to an easy task. On the agenda for the upcoming period are topics such as the parliamentary inquiry on Groningen gas mining (where earthquakes have caused widespread damage to homes of citizens) and the expected backlash on the supposedly reckless COVID-19 expenditure by the health ministry. A challenge for any new government. But first the caretaker cabinet will present their budget for 2022 on Prince’s Day (September 21) – when you will receive the next Update Dutch Politics.